Employers Can Be Held Responsible for Serving Their Employees Alcohol and Then Allowing the Employee to Drive Under the Influence

I created a video about how an employer could be liable for an accident following an event where the employer allowed the employees to drink, then drive home. You can see that video here. In a case decided in July 2013, entitled Purton v. Marriott International, was decided in a manner supporting liability on the part the employer. In this case against Marriott International, an employee was drinking alcoholic beverages at an employer hosted party and became intoxicated. The employee was allowed to drive home despite being intoxicated. He made it home safely, but then took a co-worker home. during this trip, traveling at 100 mph, he caused an accident, resulting in the death of the driver of the other car. The family of the dead driver filed suit against the drunk driver and his employer.

The trial court threw out the case against the employer because it determined that liability to the employer ended when the employee arrived safely home. However, the appellate court reversed the decision and determined that the employer could be held responsible. the Court said that as long as the cause of the injury (here, alcohol consumption) occurred within the scope of employment. It was irrelevant that the employee's negligent conduct (here, the car accident) occurred at a time the employee was no longer acting within the scope of his or her employment. The court also stated that there was no legal justification for terminating the employer's liability as a matter of law simply because the employee arrived home safely from the employer hosted party.

This is a very important case for all employers who serve alcoholic beverages to their employees. This case puts employers on notice that if they engage in activities such as the serving of alcohol at their parties or employee gatherings they can be held responsible to those injured if they allow their employees to travel home drunk. Frankly, I say that imposing liability upon the social servers of alcohol who fail to limit the consumption of alcohol provided to their guests, especially within the work context, is absolutely the correct decision.

There exists a doctrine called respondent superior which allocates the risk of injury to the employer for the negligent acts of the employees so long as the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time of the injury. In the situation where an employer provides alcohol to its employees, the employer can be responsible even beyond the time the employee was on the clock for the employer. Thus, If the employer creates the risk of danger while the employee is on the job, or within the scope of employment, then any injury caused to others at a later point in time as a result of actions while employed, the damages may be attributable to the employer.

So what can we learn from this court decision and other similar cases? First, in any significant injury case, the injured party needs to explore options for potential liability far beyond just the negligent driver. Questions must be asked concerning the relationship of the accident and other potential defendants. Was the responsible driver within the course of his employment? Where was she coming from? Did someone set in motion the accident by conduct earlier in time to the accident that altered the safe conduct of the driver? Taking the time to truly investigate the background of the culpable driver could result in altering the outcome of the recovery for the injured victim from a small hopeless sum to an appropriate financial recovery.

Depend upon David H. Ricks and the Inland Empire Law Group to make the effort on your behalf to secure the best recovery possible for your injury claim. Call right away. (909) 481-0100, or e-mail your information to davidr@ricksassociates.com.